Monday, April 11, 2016

Are You Glad?


I have heard Pollyanna mocked often enough in my life that I became scornful of her myself. This scornfulness was unjust, being based on lack of knowledge. Of course, I vaguely remember the movie on TV, dim childhood recollections of a girl climbing out of her room into a tree, being spunky. After reading Pollyanna last month, I hereby officially separate myself from the mockers.

One of that group mocked me one day, incidentally. I was on the phone with a friend, bemoaning some difficulty in my life, no doubt, but, to adjust my attitude, reminded myself out loud what a privilege and joy it is to be a mother. In disgust, my friend said, “There you go again playing that glad game.” “The what?” I asked, shrinking at her rebuke. “You know, playing Pollyanna.” I didn’t know about Pollyanna’s game, but thereafter considered her some phony who spouted off some positive thinking nonsense and dismissed her and her game.

Then, recently, there was a bit of chatter on the internet about old books being idolized, especially by homeschoolers, and elevated above their usefulness by those who prefer them. Of course, it is ridiculous to assume that all old books are terrific and no new ones have any merit whatsoever, but, being in the crowd who has a great reverence for the style and language and ideas of not just my own rather narrow-minded present-is-best culture, I surreptitiously picked up what I presumed to be one of the old, quaint, fluffy, worthless books that might be exemplary in that irrelevant category.

I read Pollyanna. It was old-fashioned—refreshingly so, and the plot was fairly predictable, which is also pleasant for an hour dedicated to relaxed reading. It was also convicting. Again, an old book leapt out of the past and knocked on the door of my heart to remind me of a few things my grandmother probably knew that I’ve gotten too sophisticated to remember.

For Pollyanna is glad, and she has little to be glad about. Neither do the people she encounters in her life, each with disappointments, grudges, and miseries of one sort or another. Her own are severer than theirs, but that makes her infectious approach to life even more attractive. She stuns others by her gladness—even sparks gratitude in them, helps them to forget their woes and to remember how good life is. Then, true tragedy strikes and Miss Practically-Perfect-Glad-Pollyanna is herself plunged into hopelessness—and the “game” she plays to look on the bright side, that has lit up everyone around her, illumines her own dark path. It is the most entertaining book on “doing unto others as you would be done by” that I’ve read in quite some time. Pollyanna is not preachy like Elsie Dinsmore, she’s imaginative like Anne Shirley and as irrepressible as Pippi Longstocking.

As often happens, when your mind grabs an idea, it pops up everywhere. This time it was my assigned reading for my Charlotte Mason study group: Ourselves, Book I, Part 3, Chapter XI, p. 131, as you probably guess, titled “Gladness,” and here are a few gems from that chapter:

“…when our hearts smile because a ray of sunshine creeps in through the window, because a bird sings, because a splash of sunlight falls on the trunk of a dark tree, because we have seen a little child's face––why, then we are glad.”

“…there is a fountain of Gladness in everybody's heart only waiting to be unstopped. Grown-up people sometimes say that they envy little children
when they hear the Gladness bubbling out of their hearts in laughter, just as it bubbles out of the birds in song; but there is no room for regret; it is simply a case of a choked spring: remove the rubbish, and Gladness will flow out of the weary heart as freely as out of the child's.”

“We commonly make a mistake about Gladness. We think of it as a sort of ice-cream or chocolate––very good when it comes, but not to be expected every day. But, "Rejoice evermore," says the Apostle; that is, "Be glad all the time." We laugh now and then, we smile now and then, but the fountain of Gladness within us should rise always; and so it will if it be not hindered.”

Mason knew gladness in action to be a display of our heart condition, and, though Pollyanna’s father taught her the habit as a game, it is a matter of obedient response to the God who has made us glad:

“We need only look this matter in the face to see how sad and wrong a thing it is not to be glad, and to say to ourselves, 'I can, because I ought!' Help comes to those who endeavour and who ask. We may have to pull ourselves up many times a day, but every time we give chase to the black dog, the easier we shall find it to be gay and good. The outward and visible sign of gladness is cheerfulness, for how can a dour face and sour speech keep company with bubbling gladness within? The inward and spiritual grace is contentment, for how can the person who is glad at heart put himself out and be dissatisfied about the little outside things of life? "Rejoice evermore, and again I say, rejoice."

From the pen of a very wise teacher and the actions of a fictional little girl, we are reminded of the gift of gladness—given to us to give to others—for of all people, we ought to be the very gladdest on earth.

For the joy of reading,

Liz

17 comments:

  1. What a battle this life is! The constant struggle to hold onto our ideals and beliefs when the world around us would have us conform to a lesser way. I DO love so many of these old treasures. I have not yet read Pollyanna, but it's on my list and you may have, perhaps, bumped it up a few notches.

    Thank you for continuing to be a voice for truth, goodness, and beauty in literature!

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    1. Kelly,

      Pollyanna reminds that there is something good in every single thing--and how could it not be--god in control and all good? I am honored if I have any part in promoting truth, beauty, and goodness in literature. It has certainly been all those things to me--and more.

      Liz

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  2. I'm reading Happiness by Randy Alcorn, 450 pages of extensive Biblical advice and history on the subject of happiness. He says, basically, that we were created to be happy, glad, joyful (all synonyms) because we were created to gladly glorify God. It's a lesson to be practiced and learned and repeated over and over, isn't it? Like Pollyanna's "glad game."

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    1. Sherry,

      It seems to be the word of the month.

      Liz

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  3. What a wonderful post! I've never actually read Pollyanna, though having you compare her to Anne Shirley and Pippi Longstockings makes me want to! We'd love for you to link up this post to the Literacy Musing Mondays Link-up if you're interested! You can find it at http://pagesandmargins.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/literacy-musing-mondays-2/. Thanks!

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  4. Oh my goodness. Those quotes by Miss Mason...generally, I am an optimist by nature, a definite the glass is half full type of gal ;), but stress and pressure lately make me feel a bit of despair in a sense...but what she said is so true...little flashes of beauty encourage me so much, IF I choose to be still enough to notice them. If I choose to make space in my mind, day, and thoughts. (this usually means less media for me!) It may be a line in a book, sunlight filtering through my daughters hair, or just the steam curling up from my coffee in the morning. Those little things DO invoke gladness, don't they?! I love this post, Liz. Someday, I hope to read Pollyanna! :) Blessings to you and your family...Amy

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  5. I read Pollyanna myself last year, and I wonder if the movie is just really annoying maybe? I haven't seen it, myself, but maybe that's where Pollyanna gets a bad take in pop culture.

    I LOVED the book. It was just what I needed.

    Incidentally, I couldn't stick with Anne of Green Gables.

    Yay, books!

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    1. Kacie,

      It is unfortunate that people judge books by movies and not the other way around. Give Anne another try--she is one of my best friends.

      Liz

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  6. I loved that movie! I think I'm going to have to check out the book; I wasn't aware when I was growing up that it was a book as well as a movie.

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    1. Isn't it wonderful when a movie turns out to be a book?

      Liz

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  7. I happen to live across the river from Littleton, NH, where the author of Pollyanna lived. They have signs everywhere through the town calling themselves the "Glad Town". My husband wasn't sure what that meant, since he knew nothing of the book. When I explained it's significance with the book and the spiritual implications, it made a lot more sense. :)

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    1. Sarah,

      The legacy of Pollyanna could be the legacy of every town if we would all get in the game.

      Liz

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  8. Thanks again for sharing this with the #LMMLinkup!

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  9. Teaching our children gratitude and to make lemonade out of life's lemons is so important. I am glad for all the fictional teacher-helpers like Pollyanna I can get! Thanks for sharing at the #LMMLinkup.

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  10. Thank you for this post, Liz! I read Pollyanna as a young teen. It's time to revisit!

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    1. Sunshine,

      It will be like visiting a childhood friend.

      Liz

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